If you’re considering the path of life abroad, this post will give you an idea of how to pack as a digital nomad, based on my personal experience.
When I moved to California in 2014, I started traveling more. When I first started I overpacked and was left with an aching back and bags full of stuff I never even used while traveling. Now, after much practice, my life is packed neatly into two bags.
I have a 30kg capacity suitcase that typically weighs between 20-25kg when moving between locations, one back pack organized with my carry-on essentials, and one yoga mat that rolls up with a strap bag.
Now, I’ll go through what’s in those bags to give you understanding of how little you need while living and working abroad, and give you an idea of the small sacrifices I’ve made during my travel thus far.
The Digital Nomad Carry-on Bag
This NorthFace back pack has served me well for the past 5 years and continues to fit my lifestyle abroad. It serves as a carry-on bag and a great day pack when I leave our place with my laptop to find a local cafe.
I typically store my passport and other travel documents in the small front pouch for easy access, the side pouches for my sunglasses, and the netted front pouch for any food or items I don’t want in the bag itself.
The chest and waist strap make it much easier to carry, alleviating back pain from carrying a full bag.
What’s in the carry-on bag?
- Macbook Pro & charger
- Mobile phone & charger
- US to European power converter
- Bose noise proof headphones
- Extra battery pack with USB cord
- Travel tripod with remote
- 40 oz Hydroflask (I fill once through security)
- Journal & pen
- Tea bags
- Snacks – nuts, granola bar, or whatever is leftover from our travels
What’s alongside the carry-on Bag?
The Digital Nomad Checked Bag
Before I left for Europe, my mom bought Max and I new Samsonite luggage. Instead of getting a purpose made bag for our new lifestyle, we took what was given to us and ran with it.
With cobble stone streets and narrow staircases, both of which aren’t uncommon in Europe, a rolling suitcase isn’t the most ideal for traveling between locations. In retrospect, I probably would have preferred a big back pack that also has wheels for easy transport.
If you’re moving locations frequently, I’d recommend reconsidering the suitcase for something easier to carry when smooth pavement isn’t an option. For now, the suitcase is doing fine as we’re staying in a place for 2-3 months before we move to the next place.
What’s in the Checked Bag?
There are a few items I’ve brought that aren’t going to be necessary for you, so consider each item and its relevance to your own journey. Even I will reconsider my belongings as I move from winter to summer seasons and as I learn about what I use and what I don’t.
Below is for the winter season from January to April in The Netherlands and Greece.
- Fabletics yoga gear (4 workout tank tops, 6 pairs of yoga pants, 3 long sleeve shirts, 4 bras)
- 1 pair of quick drying running shorts
- 8 tops (2 black tank tops, 2 dressy tops, 2 casual every day t-shirts, 2 sleep t-shirts)
- 1 pair of sweatpants
- 2 pairs of pants (jeans, black pants)
- 2 dressy sweaters
- 2 casual sweatshirts
- 1 dress
- 1 jean jacket
- 1 lightweight rain shell jacket
- 12 pairs of socks (mix of warm and running)
- 12 pairs of underwear
- 2 bras
- 1 bathing suit
- 3 pairs of shoes (black booties, Asics running shoes, Vans high tops)
- 1 scarf, gloves, hat
- 1 lightweight back pack for gym, running, and groceries
- 2 toiletry bags (vitamins, lotions, first aid, mascara, nail clippers, toothbrush)
- 1 sack w/ essential oils
- 1 quick drying towel
- 1 hairbrush
- 4 yoga books (will likely be totally unnecessary for you, but I use to teach yoga where I go)
As you can probably tell, I do a lot of yoga. I have more yoga clothes than all else as those items get sweaty and need to be washed more regularly. Most of Europe operates without clothing dryers, meaning that sometimes it can take a while to get dry clean clothes.
While I don’t need much to get by, there are two things that I have missed traveling without: a hairdryer and a soft blanket.
Most Airbnbs have hair dryers, so it was only an issue a few nights in Amsterdam when my hair was wet and I was left venturing out in the cold with a wet head.
As for the blanket, I’m almost always colder than people around me. I didn’t think to pack a blanket while I was traveling because it’s a pretty difficult item to pack. In Greece I ended up buying a blanket as I was shivering while trying to do work. We’ll see if it makes it to the next destination or finds a new home at our Airbnb.
While I bring these up, I will also say that I haven’t missed much else. It’s invigorating to have so little to maintain.
At this point, I think I can still downsize my possessions. Since we’re not moving locations again for another 6 weeks, I’ll pay attention to anything that doesn’t get use and give it away while I’m here in Greece.
I’ll also think about weather in the next destination and consider anything I may want to purchase here in Glyfada, Greece. We’re currently live right up the street from a popular shopping area, so it will probably be easier to buy items here than on the island we’re planning on going to next, Stari Grad, Croatia.
Have you considered downsizing for a move abroad and living as a digital nomad? If so, what would you bring in just two bags? I’d love to hear in the comments below.